KU freshmen shouldn’t be surprised if they see a stream of toilet paper in their Geology 101 class — it’s just one more innovative teaching technique being rolled out campuswide to help them succeed.
In 25 introductory courses that have been challenging to some students in the past, instructors have expanded on their lectures by using more teacher interaction, cutting-edge technology, group discussion, and even physical props — like unrolling toilet paper to simulate the vast magnitude of geologic time.
Redesigned courses are part of an effort by faculty, staff, and students universitywide to help more students make it through sometimes troubling classes, says Andrea Greenhoot, who directs the Center for Teaching Excellence and leads the Century 21 Consortium, C21.
Now at 80 members, C21 has redesigned courses in 15 departments with help from our Teaching Post-Doc Program and Center for Teaching Excellence. And these efforts are being noticed by peer institutions that want to create similar programs.
Redesigned courses provide innovative, more meaningful learning experiences for large classes. Students spend more time solving problems, writing, and collaborating with each other. We’re tracking our changes and seeing signs of success already — exams show more students understand core concepts. And more students are performing better on even the more challenging assignments.
Redesign of large classes creates more opportunities for students to actually connect with faculty and instructional staff. Graduate teaching assistants, undergraduate teaching assistants, or peer mentors who have previously taken the course aid the main instructors. Instructional staff members walk around the classroom, talk with students, answer questions, and coach them as they complete their activities.
And there are classroom props — like that low-tech but innovative toilet paper geologic time tracker. Those kinds of ideas, innovation, and creativity that help our students succeed are now streaming throughout our campus.